Puppets have been a source of entertainment in India for centuries and a new form, the giant puppet theatre, is now coming to the country. Though the structures involved in this experimental theatre form look similar to a standee of a superhero or cartoon character seen at festivals and malls, the concept is entirely different.
To introduce Indians to it, the premiere performance will be held at the NCPA today.
This project is in the ongoing Oz Fest and as part of a People’s Puppet Project (PPP) by Snuff Puppets, a giant puppet experimental theatre company from Australia, the initiative includes young adults from Dharavi. It is produced by Divya Bhatia in collaboration with a Dharavi-based NGO, SNEHA (Society for Nutrition, Education and Health Action).
The process involved a 13-day workshop, where the residents of Dharavi made the puppets. “These participants are theatre enthusiasts, who have been a part of SNEHA for many years. We asked them to draw what they wanted and short-listed seven ideas. It’s great to see the diversity of thoughts here,” says Bhatia, who is an artistic director and curator for this project.
When asked what the kids gain from such a workshop, which keeps them away from schools and jobs for several days, 19-year-old volunteer Raghavengra Pol says, “I am learning a lot. I could never imagine that puppets can be so huge.” Another 19-year-old participant, Kishan Salbul, says, “In schools we pay a fee to learn. Here we’re just investing our time and learning so much.”
Talking about the experience of working with professionals from Australia and volunteers from Dharavi, Satish Dhembe, workshop facilitator says, “The Australians found it very difficult. They are used to working in a quiet environment and the volunteers were very noisy. But we noticed that the volunteers kept aside caste and religious differences and many of them could also give up unhealthy habits (such as drinking and smoking).”
The performance combines elements of puppetry, live music and visual theatre. After NCPA today, they’ll also perform at Carter Road in Bandra and the Mood Indigo Festival at IIT Mumbai.